On my bookshelf at home is a small grey book, with a crease in the paperback cover. I must have already read this book ten times, but I know I will read it many more. The title is simple: Being Peace. Inside, it is filled with words that seem so clear, so insightful, that, were they to jump out of the page, they would become a still pond with sparkling waters.
I first read Being Peace at around age eleven, and back then the name of the author - one Thich Nhat Hanh - seemed exotic and slightly silly. Now, though, it evokes reverence in my mind. Hanh was my unseen teacher for so many years, until I visited Plum Village in France to hear him speak. His words have made such an influence on my life that I can even trace this website's creation back to them. For, it was upon my first reading that the joys of the world were made clearer. I began to actively search for the beauties of the Earth in simple things. And each reading after that ingrained the habit further. Now, I would love to share with you some of Thich Nhat Hanh's words:
MEMORIES OF PRESENT MOMENTS
Arriving with uncertainty to the small monastic hamlet where I was to stay for the next week.
Waking each day to walk in the fresh air, under a waning moon, to the meditation hall.
Drinking numerous cups of tea, hands clasped around the mug.
Watching the buddhist nuns pick cherries from the tree with wooden hooks.
The beaming faces of the nuns, like every atom of their skin was glowing with happiness when they laughed together.
Making the most wonderful friends, with a group of women who I will never forget - Rachel and her mother Laura, Katy, Elisabeth, Jackie, Leonara, Sandra, Sirisha and Kathryn.
The porridge with nuts and fresh fruit for breakfast. And eating each meal in contemplation, feeling truly grateful.
The three breaths on the sound of the clock chiming: a moment of peace.
Sharing poems with Rachel, and talking about her grandmother's ring.
Washing up dishes with friends, and the silky smoothness of water on a clean plate, when you focus on the feeling.
The croaking frogs in the pond. Sitting very still, they would appear above the surface and leap between lily pads.
Eating strawberries in the garden.
Talking with Katy about traveling. That wonderful laugh she had, and the awesomely mixed-up accent - from Belgium, America and Mexico.
Elisabeth's blue eyes, and our conversations about clairvoyance.
The slow progression of my mind from cynical and whirring, to thoughtful and calm.
Running alone through the orchard, and chasing butterflies.
The incredible energies in the room of the Dharma talk, where all kinds of beautiful souls had gathered on cushions and mats to listen.
Helping the nuns in the construction of a new house for the hamlet. I couldn't help smiling when I watched them mix the cement!
Laughing uncontrollably with Katy over the prickly, spiny lettuce during the silence of a meal.
A sneaky wine and deep talks, shared with my friends in the nearby town of Duras on the last night.